Modern shopping malls and ancient bazaars provide shoppers in Cairo with a dizzying array of options. Brush up on your haggling skills to get the best deals on everything from lush cotton robes to exquisite mosaics.
The luminous, air-conditioned Sun City Mall is within walking distance of our Radisson Blu Hotel, Cairo Heliopolis and features both a massive Carrefour supermarket and Renaissance Cinema. Families with children should head straight to the bumper cars, bowling and videogame arcades of the aptly-named Fun Kingdom. International retailers include H&M, Gap and Clarks, but you'll also find local brand names, like Tara and Seventy. Another major shopping center in town is Citystars, which boasts a bevy of designer boutiques, a movie theater and a food court.
Bazaars and markets
Leather sandals, shisha pipes, hand-blown glass, and copper kettles are just a few examples of the handmade products that you can find in Cairo’s bazaars and markets. The most famous is the Khan el-Khalili, which was built in 1382 and remains a thriving heart of commerce. With its intricate network of shops and stalls tucked into winding alleyways, you can easily spend a full day here. Cairo 360 recommends a stroll down El Muez Street, where you’ll find multicolored mosaic lamp fixtures and other treasures at Bazaar Al Shaaban. The must-see market is open from the crack of dawn to sundown, although some shops close on Friday mornings and Sundays.
The Egypt travel experts at Ask Aladdin recommend visiting smaller local markets, as an alternative to the more touristic bazaars like Khan el-Khalili. These are well worth a visit to pick up fresh fruit, produce and cotton products at extremely reasonable prices. In downtown Cairo, this includes the Tawfikeya Market. Open until the wee hours, it's brimming with colorful spices, exotic fruit and rich fabrics. For a quirkier shopping experience, Ask Aladdin suggests the Friday market located near the city’s citadel after Friday prayers. Songbirds, secondhand knickknacks and other assorted curios are available for purchase, brought to the market from across the country.
Tips for haggling
Haggling is standard practice in Egypt and forms a key part of the country's shopping culture. Contrary to popular belief, the goal of haggling isn’t merely to get the cheapest possible price. Ideally, both the buyer and seller will be happy with the arrangement. Travelers at VirtualTourist note that you might even be offered some tea first, as part of this hospitable tradition.
You can find a full list of haggling tips at Alternative Egypt, which begins by suggesting that you shouldn’t haggle unless you’re genuinely interested in the item. Let the vendor name a starting price first, and you can go in with an offer that’s roughly half of the initial amount. Theoretically, you should then be able to meet somewhere in the middle. Learning a few phrases in Arabic helps, as does a friendly attitude. Local tour guides at Tour Egypt recommend buying in bulk or looking for flaws in the products to get even steeper discounts. And all of the experts agree that if you’re ever in doubt or feel you’re being taken advantage of, it’s fine to walk away and shop elsewhere. After all, shoppers are spoiled for choice in Cairo.